Students feel unprotected by UNMPD

Originally published by the Daily Lobo
By Celia Raney

With car and bike thefts on the rise and seemingly increasing rates of assault on campus, some students question whether UNM Police Department officers are actively doing their jobs.

“I feel like (UNMPD) is a bit lacking,” said UNM sophomore Santiago Davila. “Knowing they’re around doesn’t really make me feel all that safer at UNM.”

Davila says he almost never sees UNMPD patrolling, especially at night and in high traffic areas like the Duck Pond.

In February the Daily Lobo reported that car thefts doubled from 64 in 2015 to 124 last year.

UNMPD claims to have at least six officers on-duty at all times, and often more during day shifts, said Police Chief Kevin McCabe.

Each shift is 10 hours long. During that time, officers patrol campus on foot, by bike or by driving between UNM and student residential properties using nine marked patrol cars, five unmarked patrol cars and one security vehicle.

While sergeants are often in and out of the office during the day, they complete nightly building checks during which officers walk in and out of buildings on campus looking for homeless people trying to stay the night, locks that have been broken or tampered with and “just to be on campus.”

“By doing the building checks, it’s gotten us out and around. It’s a big campus,” McCabe said.

Despite having six officers on duty at all times and conducting nightly building checks, students do not remember seeing officers on a daily basis.

“I do not recall having ever seen UNMPD patrolling campus, save for when local organizations organize events like on-campus protests,” Victoria Miera said.

A sophomore at UNM, Miera said she has never needed to call UNMPD, and if she were ever in an emergency situation on campus she “would not think to call them.”

“It doesn’t seem like they are actively trying to create a relationship with the student body,” she said.

In order to gain the trust of students and staff, the department started hosting monthly meetings with residence halls and some UNM faculty to discuss safety concerns on campus.

These meetings have allowed UNMPD to work closely with Resident Advisors to discuss the best ways to keep students safe.

“It’s a collective effort, sometimes we have issues that they help us with and vice versa,” McCabe said.

One factor in building a relationship with the community is trust. Fast response times are a big part of that trust.

As soon as a call is received by UNMPD, “the response time is immediate,” McCabe said, with officers usually on scene within three to five minutes, though students have reported waiting for as long as 20 minutes for UNMPD officers to arrive on scene.

“It depends on where we are starting from, South Campus to North Campus, and vice versa,” McCabe said. “Just getting through Central can be very difficult, so that will dictate some of our response time.”

With the department receiving upwards of 20 calls pers shift, he said occasionally there is “lag time” between when a call comes through and when an officer is dispatched if all available officers are occupied.

“Most calls are dispatched right away,” McCabe said, “but there can sometimes be lag time, especially if it’s a non-priority call. That response is going to be slower than an in progress ‘somebody is breaking into my car/somebody is breaking into my room’ (situation).”

Despite their efforts, students think the department has a long road ahead of them.

“The police always seem to be there when demonstrators are rightfully protesting,” Miera said. “It seems like they are only there to protect state interests and not student safety. I don’t believe they have our best interests at heart, at least as they stand right now.”

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